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Meaza Ashenafi
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Meaza Ashenafi: First Woman Chief Justice (Ethiopia)

Meaza Ashenafi: First Woman Chief Justice (Ethiopia)

Hon Meaza Ashenafi made history by being Ethiopia’s first-ever female chief justice. She is also a women’s rights advocate in Ethiopia and has coordinated many activities that have helped women. She established Ethiopia’s first-ever women’s bank and the Ethiopian Women lawyers’ association.

She is our smart girl today because she paved the way for other women to enjoy their rights and be protected from cruel and discriminatory laws. She is an inspiration to young girls around the globe!

Early Life & Education

Meaza was on the 25th of July 1964 in Ethiopia. She was born in a small town called Assosa, Ethiopia. Her father was the mayor of the town, while her mother was the carer of her nine children. Meaza and her 8 siblings attended both primary and secondary school in Assosa. Meaza says her mother has been her role model and source of strength because she has managed to cater to such a big household. Her mother also instilled values of hard work, honesty, and fairness, encouraging her to always do her best at all times.

In 1981 after her secondary school education, Meaza joined Addis Ababa University to pursue a degree in law. She was the only woman in the class out of fifty students at the beginning of that year. It was only after a year in the university that three other women joined the class. The five years at the university were challenging, but she managed to graduate in 1986.

A Career Fighting For Women’s Rights

After graduating from the university, Meaza worked at the Ministry of trade for about three years before starting her career in the Judiciary through a fresh graduates’ recruitment program. In 1989 she became a judge on the Federal High Court Criminal Bench and served for five years.

After working in these active roles of the law, Meaza soon realized that the law was implemented in a way that discriminated against women. She went on to work for the Human Rights Committee of the Ethiopian Constitution Drafting Commission, a body responsible for drafting the constitution. She helped formulate laws to protect women’s and children’s rights. After meeting with women’s rights activists abroad, Meaza decided to come up with a body to ensure the laws enacted protected women’s rights.

In 1995 she cofounded Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association (EWLA) together with other women lawyers. The association’s mission was to promote women’s economic, political, social, and legal rights and to enable their protection under the constitution.

The association made a significant amendment to family law by criminalizing domestic violence and female genital mutilation. Before this, neither of these acts was considered a crime in Ethiopia.

The association also opened up centers where victims of abuse would seek refuge and get free legal advice in Addis Ababa. The association also represented these women in major cases relating to abduction and other harmful practices like female genital mutilation. One major case that attracted the worldwide community’s attention was the case involving a 14-year-old girl who killed a man who abducted, raped, and tried to force her into marriage. This case was later turned into a film titled ‘Difret’ with Angelina Jolie being the Executive producer. The film went on to win the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Further Education

Meaza received a scholarship from UNESCO for her post-graduate studies in the USA where she studied International Relations at the University of Connecticut in 2005.

In 2014, Meaza worked at Ethiopia’s first-ever women’s bank until she was appointed Chief Justice in 2018. As the president of the supreme court, Meaza was chosen to restore the public’s trust in the Judiciary and improve gender parity in the Judiciary. Six more women were appointed as Supreme Court judges, and Meaza promises to add even more women to the Judiciary. This gives inspiration to young girls around the globe!

Meaza has received several recognitions for her amazing work promoting women’s rights, philanthropy, and leadership.

Family life

Meaza is married to Dr. Araya Asfaw professor of physics and former dean of students at the University of Addis Ababa. Together they have two daughters.

Meaza is truly an inspiration to women everywhere, showing that we have the power to create change not just within our own lives but within our communities and society as a whole. Through her tireless efforts, she has helped pave the way for a brighter future for women around the world.

Learn about more inspiring girls on our Smart Girls page, or follow our Instagram page for more stories like this!

Hannah

Hannah

Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights

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